Pitchers and catchers around the league have reported for spring training, which means one thing: Baseball is right around the corner.
The first games take place on Feb. 22, and each team has its own storyline. Some teams—like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox—are still fresh from the blockbuster deal that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to L.A.
While the Red Sox are taking some flak from the fanbase for dealing a generational superstar, the Houston Astros are enduring an abundance of criticism from fans, reporters and players in the aftermath of Thursday morning's press conference that offered something of a half-apology from team owner Jim Crane and players like Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve.
The noise surrounding the Betts trade and the fallout from the Astros scandal has seemingly dominated headlines for weeks now, but there are other teams still hoping to make an impact move before the season starts.
One of those teams, the Chicago Cubs, find themselves in a similar situation as the Red Sox: hoping to get below the luxury tax threshold in time for Opening Day.
Here is the latest on the Cubs and their discussions surrounding star third baseman Kris Bryant, as well as the offer the New York Mets reportedly made to the Red Sox in their pursuit to acquire Betts.
Cubs Creating "Media Noise" With Arenado Rumors?
There was plenty of buzz on Thursday morning surrounding Chicago's reported desire to acquire Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado.
Dave Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago appeared on ESPN Radio 1000 and reported sources in Colorado suggested the Cubs are "absolutely motivated" to trade for Arenado (h/t Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation).
However, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reported the Cubs might simply be attempting to create "media noise" so as to draw a better offer from the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals or Philadelphia Phillies, each of whom have been linked to Bryant in the past.
It is unknown what a package for Arenado would look like, though Bryant figures to go the other way in a hypothetical deal. There is also a chance the Cubs would look to flip some of their more expensive salaries (perhaps Jason Heyward or Tyler Chatwood), although one of the motivations for trading Arenado is likely to slash payroll.
The Cubs might indeed be hoping to generate a better package from some of the aforementioned teams, especially after Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic reported talks between Chicago and Philadelphia have not advanced very far.
Bryant is going to come at a high price, especially considering he ranks third among all players in terms of fWAR between 2015 and 2019, according to FanGraphs. He also has one more year of control remaining in 2021, which at least mitigates concerns about leaving in free agency.
Meanwhile, the Cubs would likely be acquiring Arenado with the premise he would not utilize his opt-out after the 2021 season. If he wanted to stay in Chicago for the long term, Arenado would immediately replace Bryant as the marquee slugger in the lineup while giving the Cubs a little more assuredness in terms of their future, albeit at quite the hefty cost.
Rangers Also Showing Interest in Bryant
General manager Jon Daniels made short-lived runs at both Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson in free agency, instead ending up with veteran infielder Todd Frazier.
Still, the Rangers have reason to go after a former MVP. They open their new stadium in 2020 and are coming off a year in which young talents like Joey Gallo and Danny Santana blossomed into rising stars.
Texas also made the decision to trade for Corey Kluber this offseason, so there is a sense they want to move closer to contention.
The question is, do the Rangers have the prospect capital to get a deal done? They seem to fit positional needs, as Josh Jung could be Bryant's potential replacement at the hot corner. Chicago might also demand right-hander Hans Crouse, who ranks 78th in the MLB.com Top 100 prospect list.
In any case, the Rangers might have to sacrifice the farm if they hope to acquire Bryant.
Mets Offered Nimmo, Davis and Prospects for Betts
New York made its own offer for Betts prior to his move to Chavez Ravine.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the Mets offered Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis and one of their infield prospects—Andres Gimenez or Ronny Mauricio—in exchange for Betts.
Nimmo and Davis would have given the Red Sox a pair of young outfielders, though Nimmo is coming off an injury-riddled season, while Davis is still relatively unproven.
Sherman suggested the Red Sox likely wanted Jeff McNeil given Chaim Bloom's previous pursuit of McNeil when he was in Tampa Bay. However, the Mets were unwilling to meet that price point.
New York will enter spring training with a surplus of outfielders despite rumors surrounding the likes of Nimmo and Dominic Smith.
All contract information obtained via Spotrac.